Jay Inslee Has Already Lost (the Press)

Can Inslee Get a Fair Shake from Journalists Convinced He's Going to Lose?

Jay Inslee Has Already Lost (the Press)

Robert Ullman

Washington's gubernatorial race is the third hottest in the nation, according to national political news site Politico. The site led off its latest rankings with an unrhetorical question about Democrat Jay Inslee's campaign: "Can it possibly be successful with such an unwelcoming reception from the local media?"

The commentary caused some local wags to wag their fingers at Inslee for his perceived shortcomings, as if the "unwelcoming reception" was entirely his own fault. But I think Politico's very legitimate query raises an even larger question: Can Inslee possibly get a fair shake from local media that have all but marked Republican Rob McKenna's inauguration on their calendars?

Probably not. I base that assessment on four factors that have little to do with anything the Inslee campaign has or has not done:

1. The editorial boards are totally and irrevocably in McKenna's pocket.

I've got a pretty good track record predicting editorial endorsements, and I'd wager that McKenna will receive every single daily-newspaper endorsement in the state. It's a done deal. It's not even worth Inslee trying. The editorial boards all want McKenna to win, and there's no shaking them from that conviction.

2. Beat reporters are all but convinced that McKenna will win.

At McKenna's campaign kickoff last June (the part I wasn't kicked out of), the chatter among the presumably nonpartisan hacks was that Inslee has slightly better than a snowball's chance in hell of beating McKenna, a sentiment I continue to hear despite a spate of recent polls suggesting otherwise. I'm not implying that most reporters want Inslee to lose—but they don't particularly like being proven wrong, either. And so the meme that Inslee is running a lackluster, ineffectual campaign tends to reinforce itself by coloring the coverage.

Inslee has never quite gotten the coverage he deserves (like for the crucial Medicare reimbursement provision he brokered, worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Washington State, and announced at a July 2009 press conference where I was one of only two journalists to show up). But even more of a hurdle for Inslee than the lack of regard many journalists have for him is the overinflated opinion they have of his opponent, an impression McKenna has meticulously cultivated through media messaging and ego massage:

"I... wanted to express my condolences on the show," McKenna's communications director Janelle Guthrie e-mailed me shortly after 710-KIRO canceled my radio show in 2008. "I know AG McKenna enjoyed being your guest," Guthrie continued, "and we were hoping to join you again."

Yeah. Sure they were.

Guthrie is good. I had tons of elected officials on my show, but only McKenna sent me a condolence note. From the reporter shield law he championed, to his frequent media and public appearances, to his office's efforts to soften even "partisan hacks" like me, McKenna has run an eight-year, 24/7 PR campaign. And it's paid off.

3. Cynical journalists see Democratic hegemony as part of the problem.

To be fair, there's a certain logic to the argument that an extended period of one-party rule can stifle innovation while institutionalizing inefficiencies—a logic 28 years of Democratic governors haven't done much to refute. And it's particularly easy to get behind this meme when 95 percent of your job is covering the 5 percent of things that government does wrong while ignoring the 95 percent that government does right.

I'm not implying that reporters are consciously dissing Inslee because they think Republican control would be good for a change. But if they were honest with themselves, most reporters would admit that they buy into this conventional wisdom. And that can't help but color their perception.

4. A McKenna victory would be the best thing that could happen to the state's political press corps.

Think about it. If McKenna wins, he would become the first Republican to capture the governor's mansion in this reliably blue state since 1980, an accomplishment that would instantly propel him onto the short list of Republican presidential candidates for 2016. Really. And if McKenna gains an instant national audience, so too might many of the reporters covering him.

Honestly, McKenna could be my meal ticket, my own personal Sarah Palin. And don't think other journalists haven't had the same thought.

Again, I'm not suggesting that any reporter has consciously skewed his or her coverage in the service of some future personal gain, but there's little doubt that a governor Mc-Kenna would be a helluva lot more interesting and rewarding to cover than a governor Inslee. So, you know, the incentive is there.

I don't expect any of my colleagues to appreciate this analysis; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of them found it offensive.

Still, it's hard to argue with my core theses: The editorial boards are in McKenna's pocket, the press does believe that McKenna will likely win, they do think a change of regime might shake things up for the good, and a McKenna ascendancy would be great for our careers.

Whether any of this is enough to shape the media's putatively objective coverage of this race, well, I suppose that's subjective. But in my opinion, it already has. recommended


Comments (19) RSS

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You might consider that the editorial boards are in his pocket because of how he comes across. He's intelligent, willing to respond to any question with actual answers and not rhetoric. Plus, he's been a tireless advocate for open records, public meetings laws and more.

He's impressive, as you know. Inslee got booted from Congress by lightweight Doc Hastings, despite spending considerable time trying to convince voters in that conservative district he was a right-leaning moderate.

He moved to a liberal-lock district and suddenly became — presto! — a liberal. There's seems to be some ideological flexibility there, the sort that Democrats are throwing in Romney's face right now.

But really, McKenna is angling for, what, 46 or so percent of the King County vote? Without that, Inslee takes the same path to Olympia that's well-worn by Gregoire.

There is no media conspiracy favoring McKenna. The fact they don't openly hate him just makes it seem so.
Posted by Cletus on April 18, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Always good to hear from McKenna's campaign staff on this important subject!
Posted by maddogm13 on April 18, 2012 at 2:22 PM · Report this
"the 5 percent of things that government does wrong while ignoring the 95 percent that government does right." think you have your numbers flipped there dude!
Posted by lololol on April 18, 2012 at 5:42 PM · Report this
McKenna scares me. Any man that much a wuss is hiding an agenda. He may be looking to pay back the bullies who intimidated him in high school. He'd probably be happier working as a clerk at Abercrombie & Fitch, but would rather weild power to defy those who don't take wimps seriously. The republican party uses women and wimps like McKenna to show the 'softer side' of their corruption. Remember, when you vote republican, you elect a representive for business interests with a trickle-down policy for other citizens.
Posted by Wells on April 18, 2012 at 6:43 PM · Report this
@4 - Wow, way to judge a politician on his record and not on the conjectured stories of your depressive disorder ramblings.

I think it's too early to declare the media in love with McKenna. Wait in until the campaigns really start in the fall and we'll see a balance of coverage. People in Washington know McKenna. Most people don't know who Inslee is. There in lies the problem with the Inslee campaign at the moment.
Posted by Drewksi on April 18, 2012 at 7:59 PM · Report this
I'm from Yakima and know jay from his years here. My mom babysat his kids, and I've done electrical work at his house (when it was in Selah). Jay is a genuinely nice guy - bright, articulate and attractive in a JFK kind of way.

The only thing surprising about his losing the congressional seat in Yakima County is that he won it in the first place: Yakima does not elect Democrats - ever - for anything.

OK, out auditor is a Democrat, but that's a fluke because she's so damn good at her job even the folks over here realize it would be stupid to throw her out just because she's a Democrat. But when she retires, she will not be replaced by another democrat - trust me.

So dn't hold it against Jay that he got booted out of here by the wretched Doc Hastings, who is loathed by the same people who reelect him year after year, and rightly so. He is reelected solely because he's a Republican and no remotely viable candidate will run against him, because that would be long-term political suicide.

Trust me: Once people get exposed to Jay and see him matched up with McKenna, the votes will start to swing.
Posted by kbatku on April 18, 2012 at 8:57 PM · Report this
I was at a dinner party with McKenna and found him to be intelligent, open, and possibly the last local and viable vestige of moderate Republicanism. As a moderate, I welcome the opportunity to vote for a moderate Republican when one is available, which is rarely.

However, McKenna's role as attorney general in trying to stop Obama's health care reforms is a showstopper for me. It reminds me that McKenna would be a force aligned with others in his party who are more conservative than he is.

So I can't vote for McKenna.
Posted by Frustrated Moderate on April 19, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Report this
slade 8
Pick ear,scratch head,scratch butt,Rub chin,Yawn.
The Republican Base is based on the freaky ignorance of Democrats? Its why I chose Reagan over Carter and why I was a Republican for half my life.

Its what happens to Polittypiggys who have no contact with the real world? they say many things and do many things that are "ABSOLUTELY" wrong and then they are oblivious to it and keep on doing it?

Its truly a game of ignorance and the most ignorance loses the race? If Inslee loses it wont be because Republicans are displaying any amount of intelligence, it will be because He is a idiot and he has no Democrats that are any smarter to help his campaign.

Maconya is a AG? this just is so fricking attractive to a population that is suffering from gag reflex and dry heaves with American government?

Its like the lowest attendance ever set at Safe-Co-Field and you still get the clown show economic X-spurts and sigh-n-tist's and anal-ists who want to sell you some crap?

Posted by slade on April 19, 2012 at 10:42 AM · Report this
Jay Inslee was in Vancouver Tuesday at a Firefighters Convention where he received their endorsement as reported in the Columbian.

McKenna reminds me of the teacher on the animated show South Park.
Posted by Wells on April 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM · Report this
slade 10
Mmmmm Kay Mr Sock?
Posted by slade on April 19, 2012 at 2:18 PM · Report this
lorenbliss 11
Ruling Class Media supports McKenna because that's what it is: Ruling Class Media, hence Republican, hence ultimately fascist.

The question is whether Washington voters understand that McKenna (or any other Republican) in the governor's mansion will turn our state into Wisconsin, Ohio and Arizona: war against workers, JesuNazi Jihad against women, genocide by abandonment against anyone elderly, disabled or chronically impoverished.

This is not speculation; it's proven fact. The new GOPorker gubernatorial tactic is to run as a moderate Rightist, then rule like Wisconsin's Scott Walker, channeling Mussolini, Franco, Pinochet, Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy and of course occasionally even der Führer himself.

Perhaps though it's the will of the electorate to impose the will of the One Percent: turn Olympia into another Madison and the entire state into another Arizona, where all wombs now belong to that divine sadist the Christians hail as their god.

You'd think Washingtonian women, at least, would have better sense.

But maybe the ideology of Ayn Rand has poisoned politics here as hopelessly as it has amongst the DemocRats in general -- note the prevalence of anti-union "progressives." Note too the Ayn Rand influence within the U.S. feminist movement and the subsequent triumph of its unique ideology: capitalism -- infinite greed as maximum virtue -- as maximum "liberation" as well.

It's a terrifying likelihood, especially for somebody like me, old, crippled and permanently impoverished by the One Percent's malicious contractions of the economy.

And likelihood it is: look how the state's voters have already bought the Big Lie "mass transit is welfare" and would rather terminate public transport -- anything to torment the poor -- than pay tiny sales tax increases of two or three pennies on a ten dollar bill.

Admittedly the DemocRats are hardly a utopian alternative. There's no denying the lessons taught us by Barack the Betrayer and Christine the Cruel. But at least Inslee might spare us the imposition of Christian theocracy so characteristic of Republican rule.

Sure, a McKenna Regime might wake the people up. But by then it will be too late -- especially for all of us he and his fellow GOPigs will have deliberately murdered by cutting off our Medicaid and food-stamp stipends: genocide -- the elimination of unprofitable humans -- without the international embarrassment of death camps.

Posted by lorenbliss on April 19, 2012 at 2:42 PM · Report this
slade 12
Who's on Facebook and who's Face is on the book?…

"Jay... my hometown area is down in Grays Harbor Co.. When the unemployment figures are given, they only include those who are on unemployment, not those whose unemployment has run out or they didn't qualify for it, or they don't qualify for welfare (no children, too old - like me! - or not disabled enough). The TRUE figures for unemployment in the Grays Harbor area would run somewhere around 35% with NO ONE in Olympia or elsewhere saying a word about jobs for them or about the problem itself. People are selling houses for a small fraction of their value merely to survive. Many of these families have lived on The Harbor for generations with their livelihoods involved in fishing, forestry, logging, etc., all of which are NIL now. What will you do for Grays Harbor County, should you be elected??"
Posted by slade on April 19, 2012 at 4:07 PM · Report this
I live in Edmonds and have been voting for Inslee since he first ran in the 1st Congressional Dist. in '98. The guy has an amazing record as our representative, not the least of which is being one of the only Congressmen to have to balls to vote against the Iraq war.

I've been so supremely pissed off at him over his vote for the billion dollar give-away to insurance companies masquerading as health care reform that I've been pretty tepid about doing anything more than voting for him in this election.

I think this article has convinced me otherwise. I was already pretty cheesed listening to the Bob River's show in the morning where they have their lips firmly glues to McKenna's ass but now I've really had enough.

Money? Letters? Doorbelling? You name it I'm in.
Posted by mckenna is a social concservative on April 19, 2012 at 9:04 PM · Report this
This is some of the most biased, crappy, ill-thought-out so-called "journalism" I have read in this state in some time, and that's saying something given how low the standards are.

You write as if Inslee is some kind of brilliant, shining light and that if only he could get a fair shake from the media, everyone would realize how truly brilliant he is and he would win in a walk. From his inane pronouncement about "socially investing" state pension funds at his kickoff press conference (does he or you even know what the term "fiduciary responsibility" means), to his prattling on about "green jobs" that COST millions of dollars per and mostly produce nothing of value, the guy is the embodiment of an empty suit.

And McKenna, if he wins, immediately making a short list as R possibility for president in 2016? In what alternate universe might that be?

Instead of pretending to be a journalist, why don't you go to work for Dwight Pelz?
Posted by arthurofrhodes on April 20, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
Anthropomorhpise Me 15
What kind of "Moderate Republican" that you can support the Affordable Healthcare Act? Democrats are running away from that POS.

I call bullshit.
Posted by Anthropomorhpise Me on April 20, 2012 at 11:09 AM · Report this
It might have something to do with Inslee being a slacker?
Posted by Mister G on April 20, 2012 at 5:34 PM · Report this
Speaking as a lifelong Democrat (or radical progressive),

I can only recall that Inslee already has a bunch of strikes against him as far as authentic democrats are concerned.

His speech in India back in the early '00s (which was streamed live, which he still doesn't comprehend), promised more Americans to be thrown out of work and their jobs offshored to India, and his support of the "free market" solving global climate change.

And then there's his previous history, as mentioned by @1, Cletus....
Posted by sgt_doom on April 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM · Report this
I not true PRESS!!
Posted by AdrianoChill on April 24, 2012 at 7:03 PM · Report this
Next time,run for governer yourself (if you don't like the Korporatist Klandidates!).Besides,I'm pretty sure the Greens are fronting a candidate who is morally superior to both Inslee and Robberbaron McKKKenna . . . .
Posted by 5th Columnist on June 12, 2012 at 9:08 AM · Report this

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